From Central Heating to Portable Heaters, my Journey
Make yourself comfortable, this is a long post.
A Cold Hard lesson:
On Sunday 20th December 2009 I was a victim of the first big 'water in the gas mains' contamination, several hundred of my neighbours and all our local shops we were left without a gas supply for the 2 weeks over Christmas 2009 and New Year 2010, with temperatures well below freezing that Christmas proved very challenging.
You can read the news report here Gas Supply Lost to Homes In Barnet
It snowed over those days and it was cold, very cold. By Feb 9th the night temperature went down to -18°C in Chesham, Bucks with an average of -4°C across England, it was -10°C in my garden.
This was the view from my bathroom over the garden in the week after Christmas.
My Garden Xmas 2009
While most homes had gas central heating and used gas hobs, many of us had electric ovens and microwaves.
Working together we all managed to have some semblance of Christmas dinner, roast meats and potatoes, microwaved frozen veg & puds.
The lack of hot water was frustrating, for basic washing we used a kettle of hot water poured into bowl.
Those with electric showers shared them with neighbours, for anyone without access to a shower it meant a trek to friends or family, inconvenient but manageable.
We ate, we washed, we cleaned but what really hit us was the lack of heating.
It's when your house has lost all its internal heat and ice forms on the insides of the windows, you really appreciate how we take our modern central heating for granted.
It soon became apparent that we were all so reliant on our central heating that very few of us had made any preparation for such an emergency
Not one of my neighbours had even considered buying any portable heaters!
Those first 2 weeks were hard, it brought back my childhood memories, we had no central heating, just how had we survived then?
Back in the day
Growing up in the 1950s coal fires were slowly disappering and the commonest form of portable heater were paraffin ones.
After the great smog of winter 1952 had killed off an estimated 12,000 people the Government acted to reduce coal pollution with the clean air act of 1956, smoke-free zones were introduced and the country converted to smokeless fuel, gas and electricity for heating.
I lived in a house where the hearths had now been fashionably covered and few people living in our road still had coal fires, the coal man with his horse-drawn wagon soon stopped delivering and was replaced by the paraffin van man.
We kids used to get up on cold mornings and light up the paraffin heater in our bedroom, dad used to nip downstairs and light up the one in the dining room.
We had a one bar electric radiant heater mounted high up on the bathroom wall which would stay on all morning while we would take turns to go into the bathroom, back into a not so chilly bedroom to get dressed, turn off the paraffin heater when we finished then downstairs into the now warm dining room.
Mum would be doing the breakfast in the kitchen, nicely warmed up by the stove (ahh those were the days, every morning a proper cooked breakfast with eggs, beans, either bacon or sausages or in winter great steaming bowls of porridge, toast and tea ) then off to school.
Back home in the evening, downstairs would be warm as mum would have had the dining room heater on heater on all day, we would run upstairs, quickly change out of our uniforms, splash some water on our faces (that passed for a wash) and back downstairs into the warmth or out to play with the other children in the street.
About 7 pm we would go up and light the paraffin heaters in the bedrooms if it was really cold dad would turn on the bar heater in the bathroom, turning it off when he & Mum finally went to bed.
Paraffin heater bedrooms
Dining room Paraffin heater
That was it, the sole heating in our house were 4 paraffin portable heaters (3 for the bedrooms, 1 for the dining room), a single bar heater in the bathroom and a large 3 barred radiant fire in the front lounge, one of those big wood surrounded jobs with artificial coals lit up by a red bulb with a slotted disc on top to give it a flicker effect.
Hot water was from two gas fired Ascot wall mounted water heaters a large one in the bathroom and a small one in the kitchen, these are the forerunners of modern 'combi boilers'.
These gas fired appliances were fed by mains water which was heated by the internal boiler and dispenesd from a swivel spout into the sink / bath or bucket held underneath.
Our hot water was supplied by Ascot water heaters
Like many children of that era we were forbidden to enter the front lounge which was reserved for entertaining guests, so the electric fire there was only used on weekends or on an occasional evening when it would be our turn to give our local beat policeman his evening cuppa and a sandwich or two as he took a brief break from the bitter cold outside.
Dad was forever moaning why the 'Bobby' couldn't eat in the kitchen, but Mum insisted that any visitors who weren't family or close friends were ushered into the front lounge.
In winter we wore winter clothes indoors, woolly jumpers, socks and sometimes a woolly hat, we only heated the rooms we used not the whole house.
While the kitchen was being used the door into the living room was left open so the heat would circulate. The passage and stairwell would always be a little cold, but as we only used them to travel from room to room we never spent enough time there to notice.
We had no central heating, no double glazing, little or no insulation in the walls or loft, yet we were warm and cozy, and (taking inflation into account) paid much less for our heating than we do today.
Yesterdays Lessons Relearned
Back to winter 2009: After a few days, a couple of meetings and much complaining the gas board distributed emergency portable heaters
We all got 2 X 2-kilowatt electric fan heaters each, but with temperatures below freezing these were barely adequate and with fan heaters as soon as you turn them off the room temperatures quickly fell.
Using those 2 electric fan heaters for a couple of days brought back my childhood heating memories, we don't do paraffin heaters anymore so on day three I went out and bought a Calor gas heater for £50, I got a gas bottle for a deposit of £35 and was told a refill would cost me £20.
For the next 2 weeks it was:
Get up, turn on a fan heater in the bedroom, run downstairs into the kitchen/diner to put on the Calor gas heater, back upstairs into the bathroom for a quick shower and brush my teeth.
Then into the bedroom to get dressed in front of the heater, turn it off, then downstairs into a now warm kitchen, breakfast (now coffee and toast, a bit of a change from the full English Mum used to do) then turn off the Calor gas heater and go to work.
Get in and turn on the Calor gas heater, nip upstairs turn on the fan heater, have a quick shower, change in the bedroom turn off the fan heater, back downstairs.
Dinner & telly a spot of reading or mess about on the computer or maybe nip out and visit a friend or go out for a meal.
Going to bed it was on with the fan heater, change into my Pyjamas in front of it, turn it off and go to bed.
I was only using 3 rooms and 2 or 3 days I wasn't even in for the whole evening or stopped off on the way home.
My only addition was after a couple of days I bought low powered (600watt) oil fired radiator with a timer (£20) for the bathroom, as stripping off in a freezing bathroom is uncomfortable to say the least, I set it to switch on about 20 minutes before I normally went in and manually turned it off once I finished.
Eventually, the gas problem was sorted, the water was pumped out of the supply pipes, engineers came round to recommission the gas meters and the supply was put back on.
By this time I had realized something, in the mornings I was only using three rooms, bedroom, bathroom & kitchen so why did I have the central heating coming on at 5 am every morning to heat up the whole house?
I would get up at 6am, shower get dressed then sit in the kitchen drinking my coffee and munching my toast while watching the news, and leave at between 7 & & 7.30 am to go to work, the heating was set to come on at 5:30am and go off at 7:30am.
This means for 5 days a week I was heating up the whole house, for 2 hours every morning, that's 10 hours a week.
In the evening I would get home about 7pm, the central heating would go on at 6pm and off at 11pm that's 5 hours an evening, another 25 hours a week, and gas prices weren't going down!
I was spending money heating up my house for 35 hours a week and for 10 of those hours I was either sleeping or not home, for the other 25 I was probably out for about 10 or more of them, this was madness.
I turned the boiler onto hot water only, set the heating timer to only come on at the weekend and since then I used my Calor gas heater to heat up the rooms I spend most time in and an electric fan heater for quick burst of heat in a room where I spent a short period of time.
Eventually i turned off the heating at the weekends too, I just didnt need it as I only used one room at a time.
Instead of hanging round the house in winter in shorts and a vest, I went back to dressing sensibly in winter, jumpers jeans, slippers instead of flip flops and yes I now wear a woolly hat indoors in winter.
One15 Kg Calor gas bottle refill lasted 3 months (150 hours) delivering 2 Kilowatts of heat, more than enough to keep my kitchen/diner warm and snug.
My winter gas bill was now the same as my summer bill and this more than offset the slight rise in my electric bill, I worked out that my combined yearly energy bill, including the cost of Calor Gas was down by over 30%.
I realise that this option may not be the best for larger familes or those peole whio who stay at home during the day, but think about it how many rooms do you use often enough to keep them heated up all day?
At The Home Heating shop, we offer advice on buying and using portable domestic heaters:
- Electric, portable radiant, fan, oil filled radiators and convection heaters.
- Calor portable gas heaters and stoves.
Visit The Home Fire Shop For advice on:
- Electric Fixed and effect fires
- Fixed gas heaters
- Wood and mixed fuel stoves
We have tested and reveiwed a comprehensive range of space heaters to suit anything from a caravan to a castle, whether you need instant heat on a cold morning or ambient low heat for your work room, we can recommened something that will suit your needs.
We also adive on a range of Air cooling solutions for those (hopefully) hot summer months
We also have a range of portable air conditioning units, which provide a year round solution, heating in winter, as well as extracting excess moisture from the air, and keeping you cool in summer.